A bad mother like my mother

It's a well-known fact that how you were raised has an effect on what kind of parent you turn out to be. Abused children run the risk of being abusive themselves, children who have alcoholic parents, despite vowing to never do so, turn to the bottle as well.

Even subtle parenting mistakes, like being too protective or too distant, result in young moms desperately afraid that they will make that same mistake with their own children.

Wounded daughters

Who you are today has a lot to do with how you were treated as a child. Some of us had moms that were there but didn't give us the love and attention we needed. This kind of childhood often results in adults that battle to receive and give love. You may find, for instance, a woman who is exceptional in her career but is unable to have a conversation with her child about how her day was at school.

There are, on the other extreme, some of us who had moms who were overprotective and smothered us. These moms may have a very low self-esteem and try to build themselves up through their children. They expect perfection from their daughters and don't allow them to do anything on their own. These girls may battle to make decisions on their own and still seek their mom's approval, even long into adulthood.

If you have a mom who made mistakes and either withheld her affection or gave too much, you may be terrified that history will repeat itself through you. Without even realising it, you may already be showing similar behaviour through your parenting. You may have this nagging thought in the back of your mind: ‘I am just like her.’

So how do we become good mothers when we didn't have one ourselves?

How to break the cycle

Kathryn Black, author of the book Mothering without a map, says, ‘The pull to repeat is so powerful that it's almost impossible to resist without considerable self-awareness... Keeping emotional distance from childhood experiences keeps a woman from self-reflection and increases her chances of repeating family patterns.’

She says that women who repress their painful feelings identify with the adult who hurt them. That person then lives through you, and you begin to treat your children as you were treated.  If you can remember your pain, however, and have the courage to face it and all the feelings that go with it, you are less likely to inflict that same pain on your own children.

Judy Klipin, life coach and author, says: ‘We process and let go of feelings by feeling them and making sense of them. When you numb out the bad you also numb out the good.’

Admitting you were hurt doesn't mean you don't love your mom or that your childhood was all bad. Feeling and working through your pain does open the door to healing, however, and that is where you need to be if you want to be a good mom.

Some researchers use the term "earned-secure" to describe those parents who, despite negative childhood experiences, are able to behave differently towards their own children.  They have literally earned being healthy by working through the wounds inflicted by their parents.

Freud said, 'A thing which has not been understood inevitably reappears; like an unlaid ghost, it cannot rest until the mystery has been resolved and the spell broken.'

Denying what happened to you or refusing to feel the emotions associated with it will only strengthen the cycle.

What are your thoughts on being a bad mother just because your mother was?

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